Celebrate Black History Month with a jazz performance in Austin this weekend

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The Chicago Jazz Philharmonic returns to the Kehrein Center for the Arts for their third and final performance in Austin this Saturday at 7 p.m. Tickets will be just $1.

The performance celebrates Black History Month with “DuSable to Obama: Chicago’s Black Metropolis.” Written by Orbert Davis, it is the original soundtrack for the 2010 WTTW documentary under the same name. The score covers the history of Black Chicagoans, from Chicago’s founder, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, and the civil rights movement, to Barack Obama’s presidency.

“It’s not because Harold Washington’s Black that this is Black History. No, this is Chicago history, and anyone who has a heart and can breathe can feel the stories of this documentary,” Davis said.

Davis wrote the score, and then the documentary was edited to the music. He drew inspiration from the emotion behind each story while drawing connections between African music and African American blues music. He said every person highlighted in the film is a superhero, and he wrote the music around that theme.

“I watched so much footage of Barack Obama speeches with the sound down, and I would just simply watch his mannerisms, and kind of imagine if he had a cape, what would the music sound like?” Davis said.

Davis has personal connections with the history the documentary touches on, including performing at Harold Washington’s funeral in 1987.

Saturday’s performance will include guest performers Maggie Brown and Sekou Conde. Chicago-native Brown will recite poems from Langston Hughes, and Conde will play djembe, a West African drum.

Chicago Jazz Philharmonic’s Jazz Academy and students from Austin’s Circle Rock Charter School will perform in the lobby before the show. There will be an intermission discussion between Davis and WTTW Senior Producer Dan Andries.

Davis hinted that the Philharmonic could come back for another round of performances at the Kehrien Center, but nothing is confirmed yet. The Philharmonic performed last summer and fall, bringing in over 300 attendees and residents from across Chicago.

“It’s at the Kehrein Center that we really felt in our other two concerts this feeling of community,” Davis said. “Yes, we had people from Austin community, but we also had people from as far as Hyde Park, who came there in numbers, [and] Oak Park community.”

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